Sweet & Sour and Delicious

December 8, 2010

It’s finals time. You know what that means. The next few weeks usually involve many late night cram sessions, 23 quiet-hours, and lots and lots of stress. The truly devout college kids lock themselves away in the study rooms of the library tower, a cup of coffee in one hand and a ridiculously thick textbook and highlighter in the other. But what happens at 1:30 AM when you’ve finished studying? You’re hungry and there are no options on campus. But don’t you dare pick up that phone and order crappy takeout.

MSG, anyone?

I’m proud to say that I’ve survived my undergraduate career (so far) without having to pull a single all-nighter and I haven’t succumbed to a Chinese takeaway dinner. I’ve found that planning ahead really helps, whether it’s getting by from week to week during the regular semester with two classes, jobs, clubs, etc or whether it’s during crunch time at the end of a semester.

One thing I like to buy that’s super cheap? Brown rice!

I bought this bag for $1.39 and there’s quite a few servings in there. What more could a cheapass broke college student want? Brown rice is one of those things I’ll make a big batch of on Sunday night and eat with steamed veggies and such during the week.

Obviously it’s not quite instant rice (brown rice takes 45 minutes to cook), but this recipe here really is all about planning ahead. In addition to letting the rice simmer for a good hunk of time, you’re also going to need to press some tofu. More on that in a minute.

Better than Takeout: Sweet and Sour Tofu

Serves 3-4 hungry, studious people

This ultra simple recipe is something you can make any night of the week. It keeps in the fridge wonderfully, and the leftovers only get better because the flavors have time to hang out. Trust me on this one, you’ll want to buy quality sweet and sour sauce. It costs a little bit extra, but it tastes amazing.

What you’ll need:

1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed

1 cup of brown rice, uncooked

1 onion, diced

1 cup sliced peppers

1-2 cups broccoli

a jar of good sweet and sour sauce

~1/3 cup of flour (optional)

The first step to this recipe is to make sure you’re done studying for the day. Why? Because you need to press your tofu.

What’s under there, hmm?

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have put this on my printer.

That’s how I press my tofu because I’m too cheap to buy an actually Tofu Xpress or whatever they’re calling it these days. Who knew there was an actual use for textbooks?! 😉 Just kidding! I read them!

Let your tofu chill underneath your pile’o textbooks for as little as 15 minutes. I let mine sit for a few hours, only because I’d never pressed tofu before and wondered how firm that sucker really could be. Oh boy. Let me show you…

That hunk that’s missing was a “test slice” to make sure it was firm enough. 😉

How did I wait this long to press tofu? The texture was delicious. It made me fall in love with tofu all over again. I’ll eat the stuff straight up, and in its pressed form, it’s even better.

Once you emerge from your pressed-tofu-loving coma, let it marinade in about 3 tablespoons of your sweet and sour sauce for as long as you have time.

Heat up a pan and oil. If you have it, use sesame oil. If not, olive is fine.

Saute up your veggies and then add in your tofu and as much or as little sauce as you’d like.

Saucy.

Here’s where that flour comes in to play. I didn’t cook my tofu before my veggies because I didn’t want it extra crispy. You can if you want to – instead, I scattered in handfuls of flour until the sauce got thick and the raw flour taste had cooked out. I know it sounds odd, but it really worked.

Now you’re ready to devour!

And maybe study some more?

When you were in college, did you make late night runs to a local restaurant or fast food joint a lot?


Looking for my giveaway? Click here!

You know the phrase: When in Boston…. visit Chinatown?

Apparently.

Despite having our map (as well as a good dose of shame for our touristy ways) and the help of two friendly subway workers, we still got lost. But it wasn’t our fault – the one station we needed just happened to be shut down for construction. We totally didn’t have to ask the same woman for directions twice. Of course not. Despite our setbacks, we discovered that the subway in Boston, called the T, is so much easier to get around on than the one in New Yawk. Everything is color coded for people who tend to get lost. AKA, me.

When we eventually made it to Chinatown we just had to make like tourists (because the map just isn’t enough) and do this:

I so wish I was Asian.

(By the way, that’s how I normally look on vacay. I call it my “trying to pass it off as curly” hair. Hot.)

At least we didn’t have fanny packs. I couldn’t find mine….what a shame. 😉

For real, you guys, Chinatown was friggin awesome. Maybe I just think this because I’d never been in a legitimate one before, or maybe because I have such a deep love for Asians and their culture. But the whole little area (it wasn’t very big at all) didn’t even feel like Boston. It was, dare I say, magical. Even though there was a lot of dirt, noise, and quite a few creepers. Oh yeah, and the shop owners got pissed that I had a camera in my hand even though I wasn’t going to take oodles of pictures of their goodies.

I just wanted this stunning display of good grammar.

Or maybe they only have one kite and one umbrella to sell?

I ❤ bad grammar.

I also ❤ those giant lanterns that  are all over the place, too… so this impulse buy (thanks again, Roomie!) became my birthday present.

I cannot tell a lie. Our room is gonna be bangin’ this semester.

After two hours of window shopping and sneaky picture taking in the stores, we were HANGRY. My vegan senses must have been tingling, because I had previously spotted a sign that said “Thai” and “vegan” in the same sentence. In fact, I had spotted it the moment we arrived in Chinatown. Way to go, VeganSenses. Man, do I love Boston.

You MUST eat here.

It was a little sketchy, to be honest. The restaurant, My Thai Vegan Cafe, was supposed to be on the second floor, but I think it was on the third. That or the stairs were magically growing as we walked up them. I was immediately hit with the horrid stench of cigarettes upon entering the stairwell and my legs were screaming at me. We’d walked over 35 miles in five days at this point, stayed up far too late, and had regular gym and sauna sessions. Stairs still aren’t my friends.

But the epic mountain stairwell climb was worth it.

Talk about cute!

Roomie and I were the only ones eating, which is why the restaurant was empty, if you’re wondering. What, you mean you don’t eat dinner at 4:30 PM?! 😛

The menu was huge and I was indecisive. It was a deadly combination.

This is the takeout menu…. there was more on the other side, and this didn’t include the selection of 100% fully vegan and delicious cakes, desserts, and bubble teas!

After perusing the menu for a good twenty minutes (the poor, poor lady who was serving us kept staring and wondering if we were illiterate), I decided to start off with Temple Soup.

A big ass bowl of warm coconut milk, butternut squash, sweet potato, pinto beans, and peanuts.

Holy. Crap. You guys, this was sweet and savory and slightly salty all at the same time. At first, I was hit with just the coconut milk, but that was quickly followed with the crunch and saltiness of a peanut and then the sweet, soft texture of the roasted butternut squash. And for 3.25 this was one heckuva bowl of soup.

Roomie got the miso soup. Classic.

I need to learn how to make this stuff.

I couldn’t believe I’d ordered a main course after this “starter” soup. My stomach was already in contented fullness, squash and sweet potato swimming away inside. But they’d have budge up and make room for the Pad Thai.

Yumtastic.

I’ve probably said this phrase far too many times for it to actually mean anything by now, but this dish was one of the best I’ve ever had. I think it’s the fact that it comes from an all-vegan kitchen, so there isn’t the bitter taste of worry in every bite… AKA “Oh lawd, is there oyster sauce in here?”

The worst part is that I was hoping to save some for breakfast lunch the next day, but there was no way that was happening. It was too good to stop eating it. I’m just that kind of person…. a pig. 😉

Roomie got the curried vermacelli. Smelled mm mmm good.

Chopstick skillz!

Of course, after massive obliteration comes massive full stomachs.

But that didn’t stop me from ordering something so fantastic, so amazing, so mindblowingly delicious that I just HAD to save it for later so that I could fully enjoy it. And I never do that.

Chocolatey heaven.

Obviously home made (with love), this was fresh and sweet, but not overly so. The menu said their cakes were sweetened without refined sugars, so I was worried the cake would be overly agave-sweetened (I don’t like the stuff as much as good ole maple syrup), but it wasn’t. There was the perfect balance between the dark chocolate, a hint of coffee, and sweetness.

This sucker was, without a doubt, the best vegan cake I’ve ever had. I don’t care how many times I’ve said that phrase now, ’cause I’m pretty sure nothing is going to come close to this cake for a looooong time. I don’t know how this baby lasted 12 hours in the hotel room, untouched by human hands.

Oh yeah, I do. It was the pad thai in my belly.

Nevertheless, I had the most decadent breakfast ever the next day to hold me over as we once again got lost on the T.

Do you have a great sense of direction, or do you tend to get lost a lot?


There’s a giveaway in this post! 🙂

On our second (and last) day in NYC, I was persuasive lucky enough to get to visit One Lucky Duck, the takeaway shop attached to Pure Food & Wine.. Do a Google search for “vegan food in NYC” and I can guarantee you One Lucky Duck will be on the top five places listed, along with Babycakes vegan bakery. Admittedly, One Lucky Duck wasn’t first on my list. Babycakes NYC was…because let’s face it, I hadn’t had a legit cupcake in the longest time and I was jonesing for a refined sugar free high. It’s hard to make good vegan cupcakes.

When we realized that Babycakes was 3.66 miles away from the hotel we were staying at (and I couldn’t make Roomie and her mum walk over 7 miles for vegan food), I looked up where One Lucky Duck was. 1.2 miles? Right on. 1.2 miles in the heat? Major suckage. By the end of our trip there, my jeans were stuck to my legs like jeggings (what the heck are those things all about?!?) and I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. My feet were aching (by this time, we had walked over a marathon distance as well as running at ze gym) and I knew blisters were well on their way.

But it was worth it. Soooo worth it.

Super cute!

The menu was so intense. I wanted it all.

The first thing I noticed when I walked inside was the super chill atmosphere. There was some music playing in the background – perhaps The Decemberists – and the decor was abso-freaking-lutely adorable. One wall, painted red, had pictures of ducks and stringed lights hanging from the ceiling. I took a picture, but it ended up blurry. 😦 Sad times.

The other wall, however, was full of DELICIOUSness.

O hai, Roomie!

These little pouches of goodness are worth the ridiculously expensive prices. Seriously… despite the fact that I spent $25 on an epic smoothie, cookies, and crispies. But you’re paying for amazing quality. Everything in the shop is raw, vegan, gluten and refined sugar free, and it’s also organic. And orgasmic.

On to the eats!

Banana-nut-crackcocaine smoothie.

This little treat was so tasty, I couldn’t stop sipping it. I was surprised I made it out the door with a fifth left in the cup. The first thing that hit me when I took that glorious first sip was bananas and then a hit of cinnamon. I think they put a loaf of banana bread into the vitamix. It was frothy, rich, creamy, and just how a milkshake should be. On such a hot day, it didn’t leave me with an overly sweet mouth and desperate for a sip of water.

I was also surprised that the chocolate crispies that I bought lasted the train ride to Boston. They made the four hours of reading about Hitler and the Cold war soooo much better. These crispies are intended to go in cereal, kind of like raw cocoa pops, but there was no way these babies were going to make it another week – I had a long arse train ride as well as a trip on a plane to make it through. I needed these.

Organic buckwheat, organic maple syrup, organic maple powder, organic cocoa powder, organic vanilla extract, Himalayan crystal salt.

What?! Where’d they put the crack? Cause these things are good eats… even if they weren’t cereal-ized.

Which is why this demolition happened approximately two hours later in the hotel room…They lasted a whole 8 hours!

One Lucky Duck luckily, I still had something chocolate-y and fantastic up my sleeve.

Chocolate chip heroin cookies.

(seriously, why do I keep adding addictive substances to these cookies?! They must have put ’em in there, how can something raw taste so great?)

These adorable heart-shaped cookies were fantastic. Phenomenal. “Fantasmagasmic,” as Roomie says.

I wish I could tell you guys how much I loved this place. But I just can’t put it into words. I now understand why One Lucky Duck is a must. Why it’s on so many vegan websites, featured in magazines, and why it’s so well known. I understand why people can “do” raw food without missing things like cookies, chocolate cereal, and ice cream.

Sarma, you are a goddess.

So do you want to be a lucky duck too?! Well read on, my friends! That’s right, I’m hosting a GIVEAWAY!

One Lucky Duck Gift Card

One lucky duck reader is going to receive a $10 gift card to One Lucky Duck’s online store, sent straight to their e-mail address. With those ten buckaroos, they can get some [help in buying] fantabulous snacks, great books, or wonderful body products. We’re talking macaroons, chocolate bars, cookies, chocolate truffle butter (!!!!), and *Atisana* products. You do not want to miss out on this, take it from me. The best part is that the heroes at One Lucky Duck will ship their store products worldwide, so this contest is open to everyone and anyone!

How to enter:

1.) Leave a comment on here telling me  your best restaurant experience and why. Or bribe me with chocolate. 😉

2.) Tweet about this and let me know. (You can follow me on twitter @southernbritish)

3.) For an extra entry, link to this on your blog and post that in your comment, too!

You will automatically win if you buy me chocolate.*

I will randomly pick a winner one week from today.

Good luck, ducklings!

*not really…sorry.

Cool Beans

July 11, 2010

You know who is a cool bean (and currently my desktop AND cell phone wallpaper)? Michael Bublé. You guys know I was heading to his concert last night, and I’ve gotta say, it did NOT disappoint.. even though some 15 hardcore fans and yours truly waited outside the gate for him for 2 hours after his show and he simply drove past without stopping to sign things. But I did meet some of his band members… and they may or may not have invited me to go to the bar with them. Michael is forgiven for not saying hello on account of his FACE.

Case in point:

He also did his own take on Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. I’d post the video on here but my girly screams are a bit distracting. 😉

Speaking of beans, I’ve also become obsessed with a fairly awesome one recently: the Adzuki (or aduki) bean. Never heard of it? It’s pronounced a-dookie bean. Say it in front of a kid and they’ll think you’re epic. It comes all the way from China, but it’s popular in Japan and is becoming popular here in the US.  So it’s kind of like the Utada Hikaru… but in bean form. You can find it (the bean, not Utada) at a specialty grocer’s like Earth Fare or at any Asian market.

Aww, isn’t he cute? But don’t be fooled. This tiny little guy packs a flavor and nutritional punch. It’ll hit you with:

  • B vitamins
  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Protein
  • Folate
  • Yummy taste!

Gillian McKeith, a nutritionist back home in the UK says that the aduki bean is “the weight loss bean” because it is very low in calories but it is supa high in fiber and protein, which help you stay fuller for longer. She’s also obsessed with looking at people’s poos (no, seriously… she does and it’s disturbing) and says that the bean “acts as a natural diuretic to relieve the body of excess fluids. It also removes unwanted mucus, congestion and stools, and balances metabolism for weight management.” The fiber in adzuki beans is soluble fiber, which helps remove LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

These suckers are a great and complete protein when paired with a whole grain, like brown jasmine rice. Eat it with chopsticks, listen to Utada Hikaru, and you can pretend like you’re really in Japan. I may or may not have done that a few times.

You can get these lovelies both dried and in cans.

If you go the dried route, soak them in water overnight or even use a pressure cooker or crock pot to cook them through.

If you buy ’em in a can, make sure they have no salt or sugar added, and do your best to find organic.

Oh.. and a word of advice. When you introduce these little joys into your diet, make sure you take it slowly. Otherwise you might have, in the words of Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, a “mudslide in your pants.”

So there you have it. Two cool beans. And Gillian McKeith. But she’s a nut.

PS, wanna win a cookbook from Mama Pea? Click here!

PPS, do you want to win 5 freeee bags of Food Should Taste Good chips? Clickity click here!

PPPS, do you like pressing tofu? You could win a tofuXpress, so click here!

If I were to host a giveaway, what would you guys want?

An American Day

July 5, 2010

I can’t lie, I had a pretty darn American day yesterday. Usually, I just make a joke when people ask me about celebrating Independence Day (I’m British). I tell people that my family sits around and just mutters, “Darn, they got away.” or something, but actually, we really do celebrate being American. We’re legalized citizens and when we celebrate Thanksgiving or Independence Day, we celebrate coming to America for a better future.

So my Brit-merican self and I decided to have a classic American day. Starting with a true classic:

It. Was. Epic.

Toy Story 3 topped Toy Story 2. I usually don’t like sequels, because they usually ruin it. Regardless of the fact that the movies all seem to revolve around the same plot line (the toys getting lost somewhere and and having to find their way back), the story in this movie was just so much more touching – perhaps because we were going to have to prepare to say goodbye to Andy as he goes off to college. But I won’t give you spoilers or reviews because the only thing this blog shares with Rotten Tomatoes is the fact that there’s food in the name.

And speaking of food, I gave an American classic a vegan twist!


A vegan “hot dog” with banana, PB, and jelly on a whole wheat bun, with a side of sweet potato fries instead of potato chips. Simply slice up a sweet potato, coat in olive oil, S&P, and whatever seasonings you like, and roast at 400 for 45 minutes. I put them under the broiler for the last  minutes to get them spotty and crisper!

Going..

G

…going…

…gone!

With a full belly and a charged camera, I headed downtown (or uptown? who knows) and watched some fireworks.

How did you spend your 4th?

A Family Affair

July 3, 2010

It’s definitely safe to say that my family is insane.

For the past two days, I’ve been babysitting my 7 year old cousin. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve gotten a glimpse of our shenanigans. We’ve been swimming, laser tagging, Monopoly-ing, playing arcade games, and light saber fighting. Here’s a glimpse…

An epic battle ensued.

Samurai sword + bubbles = showdown.

Excitement!

Which was only heightened by one thing (well, for me anyways)…

Peanut Butter Banana Bread!

Super simple. Just take my regular banana bread recipe from here and add in as much peanut butter to the batter as you want. I used a little more than half a jar, and drizzled more on the top because I want it that way.

To end two days of crazy games and fun, we had the supa cool (AKA Asian) half of my immediate family over for dinner. Enter eats prepared by yours truly:

6 Layer Mexican Salad

I can’t lie, I didn’t really know what to make for a Mexican themed meal, but I promised y’all. I gotta go around the world in 80 days food.  I knew I didn’t want to go the route of crappy nachos and vegan cheese, or quesadillas. I mean, a warm gooey filled tortilla is a tasty sucker, but it’s kind of overdone, in my opinion. This salad is my take on rice and beans, sans lard. Did you know most beans in Mexican restaurants (and even canned ones!) have the stuff in ’em? Nasty. Anyway..

The spices in the rice are strong – which is why I didn’t flavor the rest of the salad. It’s entirely up to you as to how much or how little you want to add. I’m a wuss, so I only added a minor amount of heat.

You’re gonna need:

2/3 cup dry brown rice

1/4-1/2 teaspoon (or more!) of the following spices: chili powder, cayenne red pepper, chipotle poweder, oregano, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, lemon and lime zest/juice, and S&P to taste.

2 cups (or 1 15 oz can) of black beans

2 cups (or 1 15 oz can) of corn

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 cups baby spinach

1 avocado, peeled and cubed

If you’re using canned veggies, make sure that you buy them without any salt or sugar added! The corn is even better if you grill or saute it before tossing it into the bowl.

Ok, brace yourselves. This is a super simple recipe and I can’t believe I haven’t seen it anywhere before.

Cook your rice (2 parts water, 1 part rice) with the spices. If you can, instead of water, use vegetable stock. That’s the hardest part of this salad, for real.

Layering action!

Let your rice cool before you place it in the bowl. Then add your beans, spinach, tomatoes, and avocado. In between each layer, I added a sprinkling of S&P and lemon juice.

Olé!

But wait! There’s more!

Because what’s a salad without dressing?

All I did was take about 1/2 cup of roasted red pepper hummus and add in of chili powder, chipotle powder, ground cayenne, and lemon juice.  Remember, it’s all to taste, depending on how you like it! To thin it out, I stirred about 1/4 cup of water until it was creamy.

I could eat that all day.

But instead, I think I’ll go fish toy soldiers out of the couch.

What was your favorite game as a child?

Viva Pasta!

June 27, 2010

What event takes place when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie?

Freakin’ AMORE, that’s what.

Summer flavors are fabulous. Plain and simple. Tomatoes and basil are best pals, and they just so happen to be in season at the same time. That’s no coincidence, my friends. That’s a sign that these two are meant to ride off into the sunset, hand in hand, and be together forever… in the form of spaghetti.

Droolworthy? I think so.

I’ve decided to do a few posts over the next month or so of dishes from around the world. I’ve got Mexican, Indian, Greek, Japanese, Thai, and British meals planned so far. So what better way to kick start the grand world tour than with a big bowl of fabulous, good-for-you carbs?

This spaghetti is so good, your Italian grandmother would approve of it. Well, she would if she was a vegan and didn’t like to take a lot of time to do things. This sauce is super quick (it took me no longer than it took to cook the pasta) and it’s one of those things that can just sit and sit for hours and only get better. The leftovers are gonna be bangin’.

Not Your Grandma’s (unless she’s a vegan) Spaghetti

Serves 3-4, depending on hunger levels. Yes, I just compared dinner guests to Sims.

You’re gonna need:

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

~1 lb grape tomatoes

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

Meatless meatballs (however many you like)

4 servings of whole wheat spaghetti

3 cups fresh basil, packed

S&P to taste

First, get your onion and garlic working in a pan to soften up. I just realized that all of my recipes seem to start with onion and garlic. I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Set your pasta water on to boil. Go ahead and drop your pasta when the water is at a rolling boil. I don’t get it when Rachael Ray says “drop your pasta.” Because if you dropped it on the floor, that’d suck. But if you literally dropped it into the boiling water, that’d suck too, and probably burn you.

Post pasta-dropping, turn up the burner and add your grape tomatoes and tomato paste. You’ll probably need some water to help thin out your tomato paste (add some starchy pasta water at the end, just make sure you reserve it and don’t throw the water away!).

A quick note about the tomato paste: don’t worry about what to do with the rest of the can. Seriously – who uses the entire can of tomato paste in one single recipe (besides me) anyway? On the rare occasion that I don’t use a whole can, I take what I need and chuck the rest of the paste in a ziplock baggie in the freezer and take it out when I need it. I can just cut a hunk of tomato paste off and throw it into a hot pan. Easy as pie. Pizza pie.

The grape tomatoes should start to soften and burst pretty soon due to the heat of the pan. That’s good. You want that. Once they start to burst, they will help the sauce become tomato-y and delicious and sauce-like. Once they do their thing, add in about three quarters of your basil and some meatless meatballs. Or whatever you have. I could have easily made tofu meatballs but I’m a lazy bum, so TJ’s meatless meatballs came to my rescue.

Now just play the waiting game while you wait for your pasta to cook. Once it has, don’t you dare drain it, or you’ll lose all of your Little Italian Grandmother Brownie Points. Use your tongs to take the pasta out of the pot and put those suckers straight into the sauce. Do it like they do it on Discovery Channel in Italy.

Saucy.

Serve it with the rest of your basil for garnish.

Then you are free to move about the aircraft NOM.

Just remember to save some for your grandma.